TAMPA WellCare Health Plans Inc. issued a brief statement Wednesday afternoon acknowledging that state and federal officials executed a search warrant at the company's Tampa headquarters earlier in the day.
The company said it was cooperating with authorities and that none of its 2.3 million enrollees, mostly Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, would be affected.
"Our number one priority is making sure that our members have access to needed care and services," the company's statement said. "Our essential services are operational and will remain uninterrupted."
Call-center representatives and pharmacy staff were allowed to remain on the job at the company's offices, at 8735 Henderson Road, but other WellCare employees were sent home for the day.
WellCare's largest customer, the Florida Medicaid program, was not notified of the raid until reporters called, said Doc Kokol, spokesman for the Agency for Health Care Administration. Kokol, AHCA Secretary Andy Agwunobi and other top officials of the agency were conducting a disaster drill at the time and were closeted at the state's emergency operations center.
Agwunobi, a former board member of WellCare, issued a statement later saying he was "deeply concerned" by the events at the company's headquarters, given that it serves as the health-care provider for more than 350,000 Florida Medicaid beneficiaries.
"We will continue to monitor this situation closely and respond appropriately if necessary," the statement said.
On the New York Stock Exchange, trading in the company's shares was halted at 10:59 a.m., as word spread about the FBI raid. The company's stock had hit a 52-week high of $122 only Monday.
WellCare has no commercial accounts; all its customers are state Medicaid programs and, at the federal level, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of its Medicare enrollees, 971,000 are in drug-only plans, which are offered in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. WellCare also sells Medicare Advantage plans, which replace traditional Medicare.
WellCare has contracts with seven state Medicaid programs, but Florida is by far WellCare's largest client, with more than 450,000 enrolled in its health plans. Of the $1.7 billion the state paid HMOs last year, WellCare's two plans took in half, almost $850 million.
The U.S. attorney's news release says the "ongoing investigation does not directly concern, nor should it have any impact upon, the delivery of any health care service to any person."
None of the agencies involved in the search had any comment on its purpose and referred calls to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa. Spokesman Steve Cole said there was little information he could release, but said there were no arrests in conjunction with the search.